Explain how Robert Frost supports the theme of the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" through his use of imagery.

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Nothing Gold Can Stay," by Robert Frost, is a poem about the illusory nature of life. This theme, that nothing of value ("nothing gold") will last forever, is substantiated through the imagery of the poem.

The title and last line are the same, and the poem can best be read as a metaphor, since none of the images in between represent actual gold. Each of the primary images of this Frost poem are "gold" for a time but eventually fade to nothingness or death. 

The first reference is to the gold found in nature, leaves which are green and gold but eventually (after only a figurative hour or so) they die.

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,

The same is true of the garden of Eden, the shining gold standard of perfection. This biblical allusion refers to the perfect place of God's creation which only stayed perfect for a time, until sin was introduced and death became a reality. 

Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,

The final image is a gold sunrise sinking into a gold sunset as another day fades away (dies). 

So dawn goes down to day
Nothing gold can stay. 

Frost's theme is that everything, even the most wonderful things, will eventually fade and die. This is true of so many wonderful things in everyone's life which are here and then gone. This transience is demonstrated by the three images of this poem: leaves, the garden of Eden, and sunrises/sunsets.